State Sen. Shirley Huntley indicted in pork probe

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) pleaded not guilty Monday to multiple charges, as part of a wide-ranging investigation into pork-barrel grants distributed by legislators. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Aug. 27, 2012)

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A Queens state senator surrendered in Mineola Monday morning on charges that she took part in a scheme to funnel public money into a phony not-for-profit organization that she created.

Shirley Huntley, 74, (D-Jamaica) pleaded not guilty and was released without bail on charges of fifth-degree conspiracy, tampering with evidence and falsifying business records. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison on each of the top charges against her.

She was arraigned with three others charged in the scheme: Patricia D. Savage, 50, of Valley Stream, the nonprofit's president; Lynn H. Smith, 55, of Jamaica, Queens, the nonprofit's treasurer and Huntley's niece, and David R. Gantt, 44, of Jamaica, Queens, who is charged with falsifying business records to get a consulting fee in the scheme.

Savage, Smith and Gantt also pleaded not guilty and were released without bail. All four are scheduled for a conference before state Supreme Court Justice William Donnino Sept. 14 in Mineola.

Huntley left Nassau County Court without commenting, surrounded by supporters. Her lawyer, Sally Butler, of Bayside said the senator will fight the charges against her.

"She intends to go forward with her day in court," Butler said.

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Prosecutors said the investigation started when a Joint Task Force on Public Integrity, put together by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, began investigating Parent Workshop Inc., a not-for-profit that Huntley foundedin 2006 with its headquarters in Nassau.

Prosecutors said the organization pretended to hold workshops about how to navigate the New York City public school system, but that Savage and Smith never intended to hold the workshops.

According to the indictment, Savage and Smith submitted fraudulent documents to New York State to get public money from a legislative member item Huntley sponsored. Instead of providing promised programs, Savage and Smith stole about $29,950, Schneiderman said in a news release.

After learning of the probe, Huntley personally wrote a template for a false, backdated letter designed to fool investigators into believing that the Parent Workshop had conducted workshops that never took place, according to the indictment. Parent Workshop then submitted this letter to the attorney general's office in response to a subpoena, the Schneiderman release said.

Gantt was also charged in December with falsifying records to claim he was paid in cash for conducting workshops that were never conducted, the release said.

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